Risk assessment quality varies within various sectors and Forest Schools are no exception. One local provider that claims to be a forest school was noted to be simply doctoring dates and names on their course risk assessment handouts before photocopying them and handing them in.
Risk Assessment is covered on Forest School Practitioner Level 3 Training in some detail and should include appropriate control measures that are followed.
Best practice should include an assessment of:
· The site – its inherent hazards such as water, slopes, dead wood at height, etc. and how risk from these hazards will be controlled
· The session – what activities/operations will be carried out and how will these be managed safely such as lighting a fire, using tools, etc.
· The Point of Work – an assessment of newly arising hazards at the time of work such as unexpected weather conditions, recent break ins, partially fallen trees, etc.
· Dynamic decision making – a flowchart showing the decision making process of how safety is maintained.
Often these are included in one document that is reviewed/rewritten every year or until after a significant event – whichever is sooner. However, the session risk assessment should vary with each session as part of session planning.
The Point of Work Risk Assessment is hand written at the place of work and may be as little as a statement that there are no new hazards other than those in the site/session assessment.
Note that a risk assessment is little more than a documented opinion on risk with a plan on how to control dangers. By discussing and approving the risk assessment with the provider you agree a consensus on safe working practice. This is far better than allowing a provider to work to their own risk assessment without your input.
RISK ASSESSMENT ADVICE
Insist on a copy of risk assessments prior to work.
Ensure they are in date and relevant to your site and the agreed scope of work.
Discuss the risk assessment with your provider to satisfy they will be working safely.
Ensure the risk assessments are reviewed at the time of work by your forest school provider by getting them to sign onto the documentation on the day.
Get them to reassess and record new hazards stating how they will be dealt with.
Ask for the signed copy to be handed in or made available whilst on site.
Encourage your own staff to scrutinise the risk assessment and working practices so a consensus of safe working practice and a culture of openness is achieved.